Florida teachers win class size fight

Despite strong antigovernment sentiment in their state, Florida educators – backed by parents – scored a significant victory on Election Day. They defeated a constitutional amendment, proposed by the Legislature, which would have relaxed limits on class sizes in the public schools.

The limits, which were added to the Florida constitution eight years ago, apply only to core subjects, such as math, science, social studies and language arts, and vary by grade level. Kindergarten through grade 3 classes are limited to 18 kids each; grades 48 classes, 22 kids; and high school classes, 25.

Before this school year, schools could meet the limits by averaging classroom sizes. But now, each individual classroom has to comply with the limits.

Facing budgetary problems, as are most other states, Florida legislators proposed Amendment 8, which would have allowed schools to continue averaging class sizes. Florida’s association of school superintendents supported the amendment, but parent and teacher groups, including the PTA, successfully fought the change and challenged the Legislature to find the money to fund the current requirements.

Come January, educators may be facing a similar fight in Texas. The only class size limit here is the 221 cap on grades K4. It was enacted in 1984 and is widely regarded as an important reform in improving the learning environment for younger students. But some key legislators already are talking about relaxing the limit to help ease a looming revenue shortfall, and some superintendents are likely to support the effort.

And, in Texas, such a change would not require voter approval of a constitutional amendment. The Legislature could make the change on its own.

TSTA is committed to protecting the 221 cap.

An antigovernment mood, meanwhile, carried Election Day in Florida’s top two races.

Florida voters elected Rick Scott as their new governor. Never mind that he was forced to resign not too many years ago as CEO of the nation’s largest hospital chain in the midst of a federal Medicare fraud investigation, which the company eventually paid a record $1.7 billion fine to settle. Yes, $1.7 billion (with a “b”).

How did Scott overcome his questionable resume? He spent $73 million of his own fortune on his campaign and made a strong appeal to conservative activists by labeling his Democratic opponent as an “Obama liberal.” On this Election Day, there were some sins worse than suspected fraud.

Tea Party favorite Marco Rubio, meanwhile, handily won the U.S. Senate race in Florida over two major opponents, including the outgoing governor, Charlie Crist.

Crist, a Republican, ran as an independent. Earlier this year, he angered many Florida Republicans – but delighted teachers – by vetoing a bill that would have linked teacher pay to student test scores and eliminated tenure for all new teachers.

Here is a link to a newspaper article on the Florida class size issue:



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